474

The Bad Plus: Suspicious Activity?

Brian P. Lonergan By

Sign in to view read count
The Bad Plus: Suspicious Activity? The Bad Plus is nothing if not confounding. The trio exalts in ambiguity and delights in dodging definition. Its music at once conveys affected irony and honest intelligence, melodrama and real poignancy. It resists interpretation. But one thing is for certain: the Bad Plus has created one of the most original and unmistakable sounds in contemporary music.

The trio's third major-label album, Suspicious Activity?, will do little to quell the arguments the previous two have fueled in the jazz community. And though the approach here is not a radical departure from that on These Are the Vistas or Give, the music does advance the trio's adventurous conceptions of form and rhythmic variation.

"The Empire Strikes Backwards, a rollicking composition by drummer David King, is a standout not only on the album but also amid the trio's entire repertoire. Its jagged, jumping chord progression, dramatic shifts in tempo, and tempestuous crescendo typify the group's compositions. Bassist Reid Anderson's "Knows the Difference shows the trio's impressive ability to spin lengthy improvisations out of a small germ of melody and rhythm, while King's catchy "Anthem for the Earnest presents the group in full-on rock mode, recalling '80s Brit-pop.

The Bad Plus has enjoyed week-long runs at the Village Vanguard for a couple years now, the most recent being in late September. If confounding on record, something good happens to this music live—it's less flat, arising like a poem off the page when read aloud. In its opening set, the trio showcased the better tracks from Suspicious Activity?, along with older gems like the exuberant "1972 Bronze Medalist. The musicians showed a mastery of irregular, tricky forms, with King especially displaying an agile, deft touch that doesn't quite come across on record.

The trio didn't play "(Theme from) Chariots of Fire, from the new record, which the adulating Vanguard crowd would have eaten up—its grandiose chords that would make Vangelis proud laid over a looping, funky bass line. That's evidence that the members of the Bad Plus are not as interested in facile crowd-pleasing as they are their own quirky conceptions of improvisation.


Track Listing: Prehensile Dream; Anthem for the Earnest; Let Our Garden Grow; The Empire Strikes Backwards; Knows the Difference; Lost of Love; Rhinoceros Is My Profession; O.G. (Original Gentleman); (Theme from) Chariots of Fire; Forces.

Personnel: Ethan Iverson: piano; Reid Anderson: bass; David King: drums.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Columbia Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Leaving Everything Behind" CD/LP/Track Review Leaving Everything Behind
by Dave Wayne
Published: July 4, 2016
Read "The Volume Surrounding The Task" CD/LP/Track Review The Volume Surrounding The Task
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 26, 2016
Read "Message In Motion" CD/LP/Track Review Message In Motion
by David A. Orthmann
Published: October 27, 2016
Read "The Promise Of Happiness" CD/LP/Track Review The Promise Of Happiness
by Roger Farbey
Published: December 7, 2016
Read "Work" CD/LP/Track Review Work
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 13, 2016
Read "Bombogenic" CD/LP/Track Review Bombogenic
by Dave Wayne
Published: May 21, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!